The first round of knockouts in the World Cup was one full of surprises. It was a terrific spectacle, the matches were exciting and passion was oozing through the players and coaches. Tempers flaring more than ever; it was football at its dirtiest, grittiest form and it was beautiful. There were a few players who failed to perform, but there were a number of players who stood above the rest.
Here we take a look at the best eleven players from the knockout stages of the World Cup.
(GK) Kasper Schmeichel – Denmark
Lost for words. Can’t be more proud of my country, my son, his teammates, all the staff and our fantastic national coach Åge Hareide. When all the tears have dried out we will realise how well we did 🇩🇰 #WorldCup pic.twitter.com/vhGZQtDyJm
— Peter Schmeichel (@Pschmeichel1) July 2, 2018
Kasper Schmeichel had his best game for Denmark yet against Croatia in the round of 16 but unfortunately lost the tie in the penalty shootout. The Leicester stopper saved a Luka Modric penalty in the 115th minute to take the game into penalties where he further stopped 2 shots.
(RB) Thomas Meunier – Belgium
— Thomas Meunier (@ThomMills) July 3, 2018
The PSG right-back played in of the most exciting games as Belgium pulled off an impossible comeback from 2-0 down to beat Japan 3-2. Meunier was crucial for the Belgians as he worked laboriously the whole of 90 minutes and provided the assist to the 94th-minute winner.
(CB) Yerry Mina – Colombia
A THIRD goal at this #WorldCup for Yerry Mina.
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) July 3, 2018
Yerry Mina was one of the best players in not just the round of 16 but the whole tournament. The 23-year old Barcelona defender scored a crucial goal to draw against England and take the game into penalties, which the Colombians unfortunately lost. That goal was also his third goal in three matches in this World Cup.
(CB) Jan Vertonghen – Belgium
Tottenham stalwart, Jan Vertonghen inspired Belgium‘s spectacular comeback against Japan by scoring the first goal for the Belgians in the match, urging his teammates to grab the impossible victory.
(LB) Ricardo Rodriguez – Switzerland
— Milan Eye (@MilanEye) July 3, 2018
The Switzerland and AC Milan left-back charged down the left flank launching a barrage of crosses (17) and 4 shots against the Swedes. Rodriguez was one of the better players in a rather abysmal Swiss side but failed to take his side to the quarter-finals.
(CM) Ivan Rakitic – Croatia
Calm, cool and collected 😎
Rakitic sends Croatia to the Quarterfinals! pic.twitter.com/1C8daOFMHP
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 1, 2018
The Barcelona engine, Ivan Rakitic showed another hardworking and obstinate display as he guided Croatia to the quarter-finals, scoring the winning penalty against the Danes.
(CM) Casemiro – Brazil
Gritty, tenacious & effective as ever, Casemiro showed he had exactly what it takes to win and more as Brazil knocked Mexico out of the World Cup. The Real Madrid man not only highlighted his outstanding defensive capabilities but also his creativity by providing 3 key passes.
(RM) Kylian Mbappe – France
Often scoffed for carrying a pretty substantial price tag at a rather young age, PSG‘s Kylian Mbappe proved to be worth his weight in gold, nay, platinum. The 19-year old had much to do to justify his £175 million price tag and he did just that and more in this World Cup, especially the match against Argentina where he won the first penalty which was converted by Griezmann and further scored a brace to send Argentina packing.
(LM) Neymar – Brazil
Brazil's World Cup hopes hang in the balance after Neymar receives high-five from small child: pic.twitter.com/8fZyGhExBP
— Have I Got News For You (@haveigotnews) July 3, 2018
Neymar had not been performing like the God the Brazilians think him to be, instead he was getting called out for not performing in the World Cup and diving a bit too much. The game against Mexico where he scored the first goal was a start towards redemption for the PSG star. Not much improvement in the on-field antics though.
(ST) Edinson Cavani – Uruguay
— The Independent (@Independent) July 3, 2018
The 4th PSG star on the list, Edinson Cavani scored a brace to send Portugal home. The 31-year old striker scored the opener and the winner in the match that ended 2-1 for Uruguay.
(ST) Harry Kane – England
Shots taken to reach 6 World Cup goals:
Harry Kane – 9
Neymar – 38
Lionel Messi – 67
Cristiano Ronaldo – 74
— Football Factly (@FootballFactly) July 4, 2018
Skipper Harry Kane was instrumental to England‘s victory yet again as a close match against Colombia ended in a penalty shootout in their favour. The Tottenham striker converted a penalty once in the 2nd half and again in the shootouts. Which led the England fans all around the world to sing It’s coming home.